‘Give Royal Mile siege thugs long jail terms’

Russell Irvine brandishes a Stanley knife in the Royal Mile Pharmacy siege. Picture: Jane Barlow
Russell Irvine brandishes a Stanley knife in the Royal Mile Pharmacy siege. Picture: Jane Barlow
Have your say

A CHEMIST who had a Stanley knife held to his throat during a three-hour siege today called for the suicidal hostage-takers to be slapped with lengthy prison terms.

Peter Tinkler also described the horror moment drug ­addict Russell Irvine poured isopropyl alcohol on to the floor of his Royal Mile Pharmacy and threatened to set it ablaze if police came near.

Recalling the moment he thought he was going to die, the shopkeeper said: “He made me give him alcohol from the pharmacy, which he then poured on the floor obviously in a challenge to police.

“He was standing with a cigarette lighter ready to light it. It was obviously very frightening.”

The 51-year-old likened the terror raid to “a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie” after Irvine and partner Helen Paterson yesterday admitted their guilt at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Irvine, 32, and Paterson, 33, gorged themselves on drink and drugs during the armed siege while threatening to kill the six hostages – one of whom was heavily pregnant – and police officers.

It emerged in court that the pair’s horrifying actions were sparked after Paterson’s newborn baby was taken into care two months earlier due to her drink and drug abuse.

High on a cocktail of heroin, methadone and cocaine, Irvine put the knife he was armed with to Mr Tinkler’s throat and said: “If you try anything, they all die.”

Speaking out after their admission of guilt, Mr Tinkler said: “Irrespective of the circumstances that may have been a cause for the behaviour, I think it takes quite a time to believe that either perpetrator would be absolutely safe to mix with the overall society.Irvine was very, very strong physically. A Stanley knife to the throat makes you do what you’re told. I wasn’t really in a position to negotiate. They got what they wanted because there was no alternative.”

The pair appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday to plead guilty to charges of abduction, assault and robbery during the dramatic May 15 stand-off which brought the Royal Mile to a standstill.

The court heard that Irvine had ushered Mr Tinkler through the back of the shop along with a staff member and hissed: “I just want some drugs and nobody will get hurt.”

Pharmacy dispenser Nicola Lumsden escaped through a staff door and raised the alarm.

As armed police massed ­outside, Paterson took 20 to 30 morphine tablets and swigged vodka. Irvine also took tablets and drank.

Irvine, who was not the father of Paterson’s child, claimed to police he used to be a soldier and said: “You’ve ruined my life. You’ve taken my child away.” While Paterson also shouted at officers: “Just f****** shoot me then.”

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the court: “From witness accounts of what the accused said during the incident it appears to have been triggered by the fact that the accused Paterson’s baby was removed from her care and both accuseds’ desire to ­commit suicide. Mr Tinkler states that he was in fear for his own life and the lives of the staff and customers and being in fear of the two accused ­killing themselves.” The siege ended after Paterson overdosed on the drink and drugs and officers used a Taser to stun Irvine after sneaking through a back door.

Irvine, of Abbey Lane, Abbeyhill, who had previous convictions for assault and having an offensive weapon, and Paterson, of Carrick Knowe Loan, admitted abducting and assaulting Mr Tinkler, employees Diane Keenan and Sandra Carr, and customers Kaya McQueen, who was five months pregnant, Paula Gordon and Mahinder Singh-Landa.

Judge Lord Doherty deferred sentence for reports.

Timeline of terror

May 15 was just a normal midweek day on the Royal Mile. With the first of the summer season’s tourists milling around looking for places to eat and office workers either dashing for their train or a quick drink in a pub, no one gathered inside the Royal Mile Pharmacy could have expected the horror that was to unfold next.

Armed thug Russell Irvine and desperate Helen Paterson were surrounded by cops as they held terrified staff and shoppers hostage. Here’s our minute-by-minute account of how the horrifying drama played out:

5.55pm: Police vehicles race to High Street.

6.05pm: The street is cordoned off from St Mary’s Street to South Bridge.

6.15pm: Five police officers with electric stunners and an Alsatian are deployed at front of pharmacy. A negotiator starts talking to Irvine, saying: “Have you got a son or daughter? What’s your surname?”

6.50pm: Customer Paula Gordon can be seen with her hands tied behind her back. The negotiator says: “We can’t go away. We’ll stay here all night if we need to.” He adds “none of us are perfect” and “let the women out – I’ll step back from the door”.

7.00pm: Irvine is spotted with a Stanley knife in his hand. He holds the blade to the throat of shopkeeper Peter Tinkler. Negotiator says: “I am not threatening you. This man is not a danger to you.” Irvine then threatens to turn the blade on himself. The negotiator says: “Russell, don’t do that. Look at me. Don’t hurt yourself.” Paterson stands on a chair while yelling at police. Negotiator says: “Helen, get off the chair.”

7.25pm: Irvine picks up items inside the pharmacy and smashes them. Negotiator says: “Russell, you’re frightening the people in there.” Irvine then disappears from view towards the back of the pharmacy. Negotiator says: “I can’t see what you’re doing there. I’m worried about that. If you hide behind the counter, I can’t help you.” He later adds “there’s plenty to live for” and “you have to speak to me”.

7.55pm: Bloody plaster stuck to pharmacy window by Irvine. Negotiator says: “This is going nowhere.”

8.00pm: Irvine walks behind the pharmacy counter again and speaks to Mr Tinkler. Negotiator says: “We’re not coming in.” He adds: “Come here, stop frightening them. Come back here.”

8.40pm: Negotiator keeps talking to Irvine, saying: “You’ve got everything to live for.” A police officer who’s slipped in stuns Irvine with his Taser. Six hostages are freed safely.

8.50pm: Two police officers escort Irvine from the premises.

9.05pm: Paterson is carried out of the pharmacy on stretcher while wearing breathing mask.